Yes, I am selfish, and as hard as it is for me to admit it, I am. Admitting that I am selfish, or that you are selfish, is one of the hardest things a person will ever do, because it forces us to face the harsh reality of the root-cause of our selfishness, and how fully it permeates our whole life. In this segment, I am going to focus the mirror on me…my selfishness, the underlying causes, and the true root cause of all selfishness.
One reason we have so much difficulty with admitting our own selfishness is because we despise the selfishness in others. It is hard to humble ourselves into admitting that we are no better than they, that we have the same problem, and maybe even worse than they.
Sometimes God has to hit me up side the head with a four-by-four to get my attention, so that I finally admit, first to myself and to Him, and then to others, some character flaw that is not honoring to Him. An incident last night was one such revelation.
Last evening, I was over visiting with my neighbor gal. She was on the phone trying to get a surgery she needs to have approved by her insurance company, and she needed a pen, so she could write down phone numbers that she needed to call. As I often do, I had a pen clipped in the neck of my T-shirt, so I handed it to her. She was still on the phone when I get ready to leave, and I started looking around for another pen, so I could get mine back. The irony of that situation is that the pen cost me nothing, and it was inscribed with the name of the church I attend. The church intends for those pens to be given out freely, as a means of advertising the church, and yet I was trying to be stingy. My selfishness could have circumvented the very reason those pens were distributed in the first place. She still has the pen… Now, I want her to keep it. That is a conscious decision.
Last night, as I was preparing for my devotional time, God confronted me with my selfishness. He brought back to mind what I did and what I said. I had to admit: “Yes Lord, I AM selfish.” I was also prompted to write this segment, so that I not only admitted my sin to God, but also to you, my beloved readers.
Problems, such as selfishness, are often rooted so deep within our psyche, that we may not really be aware of how they affect our every action and attitude. In my case, it goes back to my early childhood. I was “raised this way“… Unfortunately it has taken fifty-seven years for me to be brought to the realization of how deep selfishness is ingrained in me. As I look back over my life, it is now dawning on me just how many selfish things I have done that have deeply affect my life and relationships.
From “virtue” to “vice”:
While I was growing up, we were poor, often dirt-poor. We were, as it is now called, “trailer-trash“. Only the poorest lived in house-trailers…in trailer-parks. The name “mobile home” was not coined until much later, and has upped to acceptability of living in a less-than-permanent home. We even lived in the “projects“, government housing for the very poor, for a while. There were times when the only food we had to eat was what some “Good Samaritan” left on our doorstep. There was no such thing as “abundance“. We didn’t own our own “real” home until I was in eight grade. There was no such thing as “enough” or “more than enough“.
Because we didn’t have much, I didn’t get much, and I was expected to take good care of what I did have. Taking good care of what we have is great, until it fosters a spirit of stinginess and selfishness. I knew that I couldn’t TRUST my parents to give me more, or replace something, so I HAD to take care of it. I also knew that if I didn’t take good care of what I had, I would get seriously chastised. I was praised for how well I took care of my stuff… I was selfish, and that was “good“.
We SHOULD always take good care of the things we are entrusted with, because that is good stewardship. We change the oil in our car because we want it to last a long time. That is stewardship. There is a definite difference between being good stewards and being stingy and selfish, and the difference is our motivation.
I knew nothing about the concept of “stewardship“, so my motivation was selfish. The “virtue” of good stewardship became the “vice” of selfishness. That became the only semi-conscious way in which I have lived my life since. “Semi-conscious” because it has become automatic. I CAN be generous, but that is a CHOICE I have to make. Being generous is not instinctive. Being selfish is.
I have already alluded to the root-cause of selfishness…trust. If we can’t trust our source of supply, we become selfish with what we have. Our first visible source of supply is our parents. If they are generous, we may develop an attitude of generosity. If they are overly-generous, we may develop an attitude of wastefulness. However, if they appear to be stingy, and the lack of resources is real, we may develop an attitude and habit of stingy-selfishness. We don’t want there to be a time when we are lacking. We also “waste-not, want-not“…
“Waste-not, want-not” is a symptom of the uncertainty of our supply. It is also a symptom of the “clean-your-plate” mentality. I was at a restaurant with a buffet several months ago. They had two different prices for their buffet. If a person “cleaned their plate” each time they went to the buffet, the price was 25% lower, than if they wasted some of what they took, they paid the higher price. By doing so, the restaurant was encouraging their patrons to be wise stewards of the buffet, and not waste food. Our American culture has glorified over-eating. We are also the “king of the combo” and the “master of super-sizing“. I was at a fast-food restaurant a few nights ago, and even though I ordered a small sandwich, the order-taker punched in “combo” without asking me. I was surprised that there were fries on the tray, since I hadn’t ordered them, and my friend hadn’t either. I didn’t really WANT the fries, but I ate some so that I didn’t waste the whole order of fries. We also waste enough food each day to feed those who have none, but unfortunately it just goes to waste. I have a serious issue with anyone who routinely wastes food…
One more “waste-not, want-not” story… I am catheter-dependent, and so a steady supply of clean catheters is absolutely necessary for my daily functioning. Even though my source of supply has been dependable…so far, I have difficulty trusting that source that my supply will always be there. If I have no catheters, I can’t drain my bladder – period, so I have stockpiled both a several-month supply of fresh, new catheters, AND a supply of well-cleaned and reusable used catheters. One of my urologists would prefer that I use a NEW catheter every time. My other urologist is okay with me using a fresh one each day. After several years of cleaning EVERY catheter I use for reuse, I have had a hard time bringing myself to both use a new one every day, AND discarding my used one at the end of the day. While I do participate in two different medical care systems, one has not committed to supplying me with catheters, so if the one that has been supplying me were to quit, or start charging me retail price, I would be up a creek without a paddle without my fall-back supply. I certainly can’t afford to buy them on my own. One style costs about $65.00 per dozen, and the other style also costs about $65.00 per dozen. Am I being rightfully-cautious, or am I paranoid?
Where “trust” gets down to brass tacks, is the WHO or WHAT are we trusting to supply our needs. If all we have to trust for our needs is man or man’s organizations, we have the right to be distrustful. Perhaps if my parents had always kept our refrigerator and pantry well-stocked, so that there was ALWAYS food in the house and available, I would have grown up much differently. As it was, with money always in short supply, I grew up fearful about how my basic needs would be met. I doubt that I ever actually missed a meal, but knowing that possibility existed, I developed a very frugal mentality. My parents HAD to be frugal, and I learned early-on to be frugal also. We were also chronic pack-rats, which is still hard to get away from.
Would it liberate our thinking if instead of depending on fallible human-beings, we started depending on God? It is admittedly difficult getting our minds around the idea that Almighty God has an unlimited, infinite supply of everything we need, and as His children, He delights in providing for our needs. Jesus said “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34) Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus“. (Philippians 4:19) I believe our greatest difficulty is the “ALL“, because our experience has always been that there was something lacking. “ALL” requires trust…the faith to believe that He will do what He has said.
Have we forgotten that our Heavenly Father is the very same God who fed the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness? That was no small task, because there were over a MILLION of them. Or perhaps we have forgotten that Jesus Christ fed large crowds TWICE with someone’s lunch, and there were more leftovers than what He started with. It seems that we are selling God short.
Another rub is “needs“, because we often confuse our “wants” with our “needs“. If we “want” something bad enough, we begin to think it is a “need“, and God doesn’t promise to supply our “wants“. We need to be diligent in keeping our “needs” and our “wants” in proper perspective.
I do NOT subscribe to the “name-it-and-claim-it” style of religion, because it reduces God to some kind of “heavenly-butler“. God is NOT at our beck and call, nor is He a vending-machine.
While I do NOT want to go off the deep end in the other direction…to wastefulness, I do need to relax and learn to trust God to supply my needs. God does expect us to be good stewards of His provisions, and that includes not being wasteful. I also want to be more generous with both my time and resources, because, as God has blessed me, I want to bless others as well.